The organisers of the Circuit of Ireland Rally have announced that the event will return to the Downpatrick district this season, reviving the special stages used regularly during the 1980s when the likes of Jimmy McRae, Billy Coleman, Russell Brookes and David Llewellin were competing for the iconic UAC Trophy.
The event, the fifth round in the 2014 FIA European Rally Championship, will visit the Downpatrick and Mourne Tourism Destinations on Good Friday, April 18, 2014, the opening day of the rally.
Downpatrick will also be one of the hubs of the event with rally cars, team members and fans converging in the centre of the ancient cathedral town for a re-group.
“The 2014 Circuit of Ireland is delighted to team up with Down District Council,” said Circuit of Ireland event director Bobby Willis. “By bringing the rally to Downpatrick we anticipate an influx of several thousand visitors many of them travelling to the region for the very first time.
"One of twelve prestigious events featured on the European Rally Championship calendar and the second oldest Rally after Monte Carlo, the Circuit of Ireland has been dubbed 'legendary' by ERC organisers. It's therefore fitting that we have included historic, legendary and heritage elements within the Downpatrick area into the Circuit's initial day of competitive racing.
“It's wonderful to bring the Circuit to this area of Down as it's such an inspiring and ancient region. I'm sure all the drivers and co-drivers as well as visitors will appreciate and value such a prestigious 'regroup' location.”
Outlining their support for the Circuit of Ireland, Down District Council Chairman, Cllr Maria McCarthy, added: “On behalf of Down District Council I'd like to welcome the Circuit of Ireland to St Patrick's Country and Mourne Tourism Destinations. We're delighted to be part of such a huge international sporting event and believe it provides an excellent opportunity to showcase our historic town and ecclesiastical links to St Patrick as well as our stunning rural scenery.
“Easter Week-end is set to be a busy time for local businesses and tourist attractions and we hope that all our visitors and competitors enjoy their time in St Patrick's Country and Mourne Tourism area and experience the wide variety of tourism opportunities that the area has to offer.”
Meanwhile, also helping to launch the Downpatrick stages of the Circuit was local driver and Circuit of Ireland competitor Fintan McGrady.
“I've competed in this world famous event many times during the last two decades and it's truly a unique experience! As a native of this region it will be extra special competing on my home turf and I'm sure there will be lots of spectators,” McGrady stated.